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Students and Staff Reflect on the Early Signs of Success for Hale Beyond

That’s a wrap for the first semester of Hale Beyond, and the preliminary reports are in: teachers and students love it!

“This year has been going very well. It’s stress-free. It’s way better,” said junior Mauricia Dixon. “My grades have come up.”

Students in the program are able to work independently at their own pace. With the lessons and assignments on their computers, they are free to work in any room they feel comfortable. While they do still have to check in with the teachers and take tests, they are able to plan their day in a way that works best for them.

“Kids are enjoying themselves. They are having fun, and they don’t mind doing the work when they are having a good time doing it,” said Principal Sheila Riley. “It makes the hope for the future and the excitement of school come back. They get to do all the things kid love to do. They get to socialize; they get to work together; they get to see each other. It’s been fantastic.”

For teachers, this means that they are no longer providing direct instruction to the whole class every day. Instead, they are able to work with students in small groups or one-on-one to meet them where they are whether that means they need extra attention or advanced lessons.

“Students are able to get more invested in education. A lot of times people would say students just don’t care about learning, which is not what I’ve seen in this program,” said science teacher Gabriel Grantham. “It’s on them. They’re not sitting in class getting a grade. They are having to move at their own pace. They have to been invested in it for it to work. We’re giving students the ability to take ownership of learning so that can be more sustainable long-term.”

This has allowed some students to reach higher than they could have possibly reached in a typical classroom environment. One student finished his first semester of pre-calculus by September and was able to move on.

“In a traditional classroom, he’s just waiting for everyone else to catch up and may have not ever gotten that far. We’re seeing those kids really flourish and bloom. They really are able to do the work and move at a faster place,” said Sheila.

For the students who were behind, they are able to get the extra help they need to bring them up to where they need to be.

“In a few years, I think you will see not only more students graduating college and career ready, but you’ll also see more students reaching a higher level of academics,” said Sheila.

The free-flowing schedule allows for other opportunities too. Hale is able to offer more classes to students because they don’t have to worry about classroom and teacher allotments. One teacher can help students with several different classes anytime throughout the day. Also, teachers no longer need substitutes when they need to take a day off, and students don’t have to worry about getting make-up assignments when they are out sick. The students are motivated to keep up though because they don’t want to fall behind their friends.

“I’ve seen a lot of students pushing other students to get their stuff done,” said Gabriel.

Hale Beyond allows students to collaborate more easily and help each other succeed.

"I have a high English language learner population. So, even though they are spread out in my sections, I’ve gotten to sit down with a lot of my ELL students together, and we will walk through a concept. So, when our students are at different levels of English mastery they are able to help teach it to other students.”

Students are also learning important skills like time management and how to advocate for themselves.

“Students have to learn to ask questions and stick up for themselves,” explained Gabriel. “We see holistic education happening. Not only are students learning content, but they are able to build on these ideas of social emotional learning. They have the mentors who are able to meet with them, check in, ask how home’s doing, but also create a plan for after high school.”

This format has led to a decrease in disciplinary issues. Students can take the time they need to calm down or remove themselves from a situation before it escalates.

“The culture up there, it’s like a whole different world,” said Sheila. “No drama. The kids all get along.”

Sheila said the students are now happy to come to school and the teachers are too.

“I enjoy coming to work every day,” said Gabriel.

“They are getting to do what they signed up to do: help kids,” said Sheila.

They are hoping to add 250 more students to the program next year and eventually the whole school.

“I’m really excited about what could happen at Hale,” said Gabriel. “We have a group of teachers that are committed to building this out and doing this right. We are committed to building a system of education where students are mastering content at their own pace. We have a team that is so committed to making sure every child is successful.”

For more information on Hale Beyond, click here.